The Gunners began at a furious pace and looked likely to batter the visitors into submission as their thrusting power play unlocked the Villa defence at will.
Arsenal's best chance of the opening exchanges came in the 13th minute when centre back Kolo Toure played a delightful ball over the Villa midfield and into the path of Thierry Henry.
The French striker instantly lifted the ball over the oncoming Thomas Sorensen but watched his effort fall agonisingly wide of the right upright.
Within seconds the Gunners went even closer when Freddie Ljungberg received possession on the right flank. The Swede spotted Sorensen marginally off his line and chipped a delightful ball towards goal only to see his effort cannon away to safety off the crossbar.
For Aston Villa, Mark Kinsella had a good shot saved by Jens Lehmann on 17 minutes and Juan Pablo Angel made every effort to shoot on goal. His best chance came in the 25th minute with an angled shot across Lehmann's penalty area that rolled just wide of the right upright.
After the interval the Gunners began slowly and appeared to be running out of ideas until the 57th minute when Robert Pires sent in the home side's first corner of the game and J Lloyd Samuel headed towards his own net but the ball was cleared off the line by his team-mate Ulises De la Cruz.
However, the ball only fell as far as Sol Campbell who powered his header into the back of the net.
David O'Leary threw on Darius Vassell who injected some urgency into the visiting side's attack but the Gunners defended well although Toure benefited from a marginal offside decision with Pete Whittingham clean through.
As the Gunners held possession to kill time, Dennis Bergkamp charged down a ball and won possession from Olof Mellberg.
The ball rolled towards Henry who ran into the left side of the area and coolly finished by slotting the ball across the goal and into the right side of the net from the acutest of angles.